I am advised by my trailer dealer that East Tennessee is one of the leading areas for trailer theft in the United States. With this in mind, I thought I would share with ya’ll some tips regarding avoiding trailer theft. Bear in mind that I am not a credentialed security expert, I’m just a guy who had his trailer boosted and then read a bunch of stuff on the internet to try to keep from losing another one.
Further, you can’t prevent a determined thief from taking your trailer. Given time, he will defeat any security measures you attempt to install. The key characteristic of thieves is that they are lazy. If they weren’t lazy, they’d work to earn stuff, not take stuff that belonged to other people. And that’s what we’re going to try to exploit. We’re going to try to make our trailers too much work to bother stealing.
That said, we start with the low-hanging fruit You probably already use a padlock on your latch. I’ve been warned, again, by my trailer dealer, that the bad guys will simply back up to your trailer, hook up the safety chains, and drag your trailer off by the chains, to cut your padlock off later. To delay this, simply clip your safety chains to your hitch, using the same lock you are using to secure your hitch. This will extend the process of stealing your trailer and delay the thief, making him more likely to go look for another trailer to steal.
Once you have a padlock on your trailer hitch that locks it in a “closed” position, and you are locking your safety chains in with your hitch it’s time for the bad news: that padlock is almost entirely ceremonial. Lemme tell ya a story. This one time, at Gulf Wars, I lost my trailer keys. So I showed up at my trailer with a hacksaw and a tire iron, and thinking that I would need to get my battery operated grinder out of the van. But I figured I’d just try the tire iron, thinking I could maybe jerk the hasp out of the mechanism. I stuck the tire iron into the lock and pushed gently, just to gauge how much force would be needed. The hasp shattered into five pieces with almost no effort. So let me say it even more blatantly: a padlock on your trailer hitch prevents NOTHING but casual impulse theft. But there IS something you can do.
Here’s the tongue lock that I like. It’s almost completely immune to tire irons. The ball on it fills the socket on the hitch. And the bar that holds it in place is over an inch thick. It takes an angle-grinder to remove it. I also like the fact that it’s made by a well-known company that has significant investment in name recognition. And before anyone brings up boots again, yes – you need one.
This is perhaps the most critical of my posts regarding trailer security. We have already covered locking back your safety chains and the fact that a padlock is largely ceremonial. We’ve also discussed real tongue locks that prevent the hitch from being connected to the ball. But here’s the thing: even with the hitch completely blocked, the bad guys can, will, and have butted an “un-useable” hitch to a ball and then expended a half a roll of duct tape on it and rolled off, do deal with the hitch lock later, in private, and with angle grinders. And angle grinders WILL defeat any lock you install. I know it’s hard to believe, but I’ve seen a demonstration. Yes, enough wraps of duct tape will effectively bypass ANY hitch-securing mechanism you can purchase. So what do we do about this?
If I may be permitted a bilingual pun, the answer is: Das Boot. A boot applied to one of the wheels of your trailer that prevents the wheel from turning will keep your trailer from rolling off with all but the most determined thieves .I’ve actually watched people case my trailer from my hotel room window. They walk up to my rig, start walking around it, and when they see the boot they stop and walk away. Now, I use a cheap boot. I’m hoping to upgrade this month if I can manage it. My boot looks like this one: The boot clamps around the wheel, preventing it from turning without making a lot of noise and damaging the vehicle in the process, rendering theft useless. This particular boot is not ideal because it can be defeated by removing the tire. It does make stealing the trailer more work than most thieves are willing to undertake. The longer it takes to drive off with my trailer, the more time there is for me to show up with a baseball bat, or worse. I went with this style of boot because a) it was cheap, but better than nothing, and b) because it was what my trailer dealer had in stock when I was buying the trailer that replaced the one that was stolen.
This month I hope to upgrade to this model. This model is superior because in addition to jamming up the wheel if the bad guy tries to drive off with your trailer, it also covers the lug nuts and prevents him from removing defeating the boot by removing the wheel. Extra boot hint: always boot your trailer on the wheel facing the street, where the boot will be clearly visible to anyone casing your trailer.Please be aware that all three of these steps, securing the safety chains, locking the hitch, and even booting one of the wheels only makes it more work to steal the trailer. We have probably eliminated the dishonest and lazy. But I can think of at least two ways to defeat even a good boot. If a professional trailer thief targets you, you should probably have good insurance.